Written by Melissa Benton Corleto
Last night six members of the Social Justice Leadership Team (including Rabbi Stern) traveled to Boyle Heights to visit the Dolores Mission and meet with some of its members. Our journey was a mere 14 miles, and only took us twenty minutes (it’s true, everywhere in L.A. takes twenty minutes), but Boyle Heights probably seems very far for most of us.
When we arrived, we were taken on a tour of the church and school. We visited chapels, classrooms, a student-created vegetable garden, administrative offices, and living quarters for the fifty men who are temporary residents of the Mission. Each of the facilities is immaculately maintained, and immediately makes visitors feel welcome.
The Dolores Mission and school are surrounded by “projects”; however these are not the graffiti-covered, crumbling high-rises that you might be picturing. They are known as “casitas”, small townhouses whose manicured gardens and fresh paint reflect a strong pride of ownership.
At 7:30 our bilingual, bi-denominational meeting began. We began with prayers and ice-breaker activities, which allowed us to get to know each other. Everyone was warm and friendly, and it hardly felt like a first encounter.
Then it was down to business. We discussed our definitions of community, why we are proud of our communities, and the issues facing our communities. Through our discussion, it became evident that there are several connections between the Stephen S. Wise and Boyle Heights The discussion was honest, and people shared true concerns and hopes about their churches, synagogues, families, neighborhoods, and city. Each group is concerned about jobs, health care, and education. It turns out both groups also really like tamales. communities.
Our next step is to identify how our interdependent relationship will allow us to create positive change in our communities.